The Vancouver Canucks beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in Game 1 on Wednesday night. The St. Louis Blues tied the game but gave up three goals in the third period. This came after the Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild, in four games, in the Qualifying Round, while the Blues failed to win a game during round-robin play.
The Canucks were successful against the Blues during the regular season, finishing with a 2-0-1 record. They started the series on the right foot, winning Game 1 5-2.
Brandon Sutter hasn’t been offensively productive throughout his time with the Canucks. In five seasons with the club, he has played 232 games and posted 92 points. General manager Jim Benning traded for the forward in the 2015 offseason and stated he plays his best hockey when the games mean something.
Sutter has played some of his best hockey as a Canuck in this postseason. He impressed with his grit in the Qualifying Round against the Wild. Justin Faulk slashed Sutter on a scoring chance, which drew the first penalty of Game 1. The Canucks’ power play rewarded the veteran forward for his efforts with an immediate goal.
Power Play Battle
Sutter drew the first penalty of the series, and captain Bo Horvat scored the first power-play goal 11 seconds later. The Hockey Writers own Matthew Zator noted that the two teams have had similar success on the power play during the regular season. The Blues ranked third, while the Canucks ranked fourth.
During Game 1, the Canucks drew six penalties, capitalizing on three of their power-play opportunities. The Blues scored one goal on their three power-play chances. Both of these teams’ power plays contribute to their success, which is why this series will likely come down to which team can play disciplined hockey and who can take advantage of their power-play opportunities.
Bo Captain, My Captain
Horvat left his wife and newborn son to chase his dream of winning the Stanley Cup. Not only did Horvat score the opening goal, but he also scored a highlight-reel goal to extend the lead to 4-2. He dangled past Blues defender Vince Dunn to bury the puck past goaltender Jordan Binnington. His goal is a sign that the Canucks captain is playing with a lot of confidence, and that is great for the club.
Horvat has been a playoff performer since his Ontario Hockey League (OHL) days. He won the Wayne Gretzky 99 award for the OHL playoff MVP in 2013. He scored 16 goals and 23 points in 21 games in that run with the London Knights as they advanced to the Memorial Cup. He also tied for the team lead in the 2014-15 playoff with four points in six games.
From the young core made up of Horvat, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, the captain is the only one with playoff experience, which is why him scoring two goals in Game 1 is not surprising.
Richmond’s Own Scores the Game Winner
The Canucks pulled away in Game 1 with a win, thanks to a goal from Richmond, B.C. native, Troy Stetcher. His first-ever NHL playoff goal could not be and bigger. He fired a puck past Binnington in the third period to give his team a 3-2 lead. The defenseman immediately pointed towards the sky after scoring the game-winning goal for his father and his childhood team.
His father, Peter Stetcher, who sadly passed away on Father’s Day 2020. Peter raised his three kids in Richmond and was an important part of the defenseman’s life.
Related: Top 3 All-Time Blues Goalies
“He was my first coach and my favorite coach,” Stecher told Sportsnet. “He was my best friend. My dad was always hard on me as a player. He wasn’t an [expletive] or anything, but my dad expected me to work hard and he wasn’t going to sugar-coat anything. He was going to tell me the way it was, and I’m thankful for that.”
This first-round matchup features two great NHL goaltenders. Jacob Markstrom has been the Canucks MVP all season long, while Binnington played a large role in the Blues comeback in the 2018-19 season and the Stanley Cup final run. Markstrom came out on top in Game 1, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced for a .935 save percentage. Binnington faced just 22 shots and allowed five goals, giving him a .773 save percentage (SV%).
Markstrom may have gotten the better of his goalie counterpart in Game 1, but there are still at least three more games to play. Binnington has playoff experience, and he will likely bounce back in Game 2. It will be interesting to see if Markstrom can continue to hold down the fort for the Canucks throughout the series as both goalies will play an important part in the outcome of it.
The Perron Problem
David Perron has played nine seasons with the Blues in three different stints with the team. In 2018-19, he returned to the team that had drafted him and played an important part in the team capturing the Stanley Cup. He scored seven goals and 16 points in 26 games for the Blues. He opened up the scoring for the Blues on the power play in Game 1.
Aside from his goal, Perron impacted the game in other ways as he went after the Canucks’ two best players on Wednesday night. Pettersson and Hughes were harassed by the forward on separate occasions. The Canucks dealt with this in the play-in round against the Wild and will have to solve this problem again. Antoine Roussel will have to be one of the players that stands up for his teammates as he did against the Wild.
Canucks Take Series Lead
In their first official playoff game since 2014-15, the Canucks came out with a big win. A 5-2 win against the defending champs is a confidence booster for the inexperienced Canucks team. Their top six combined for a total of eight points in Game 1. Head coach Travis Green will have to prepare his club for a Blues team that will be looking to bounce back. Game 2 is scheduled for Friday at 3:30 PM PST.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.